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Supreme Court Agrees to Review Federal Law Banning Late-Term Abortion Procedure; Port Security Fears

Aired February 21, 2006 - 10:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And let's kick off the hour by taking a look at what's happening right "Now in the News."
The U.S. Supreme Court steps back into the volatile abortion debate. Within the last hour, the high court agreed to review a federal law banning a controversial late-term abortion procedure. Critics call it partial-birth abortion. The case could signal a judicial shift as new Justice Samuel Alito replaces Sandra Day O'Connor.

We're getting more information about a car bomb explosion at a marketplace in southern Baghdad. Police say 20 people were killed and 25 others were wounded. Witnesses say the blast set nearby stores on fire and left several cars burning. The attack followed a pair of roadside bombings earlier that killed a policeman and wounded two civilians.

The military says U.S. forces have uncovered a bomb-making factory outside of Baghdad. They say it was used to make improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Officials say a tip from local Iraqis led to that find.

Anguished relatives hope against the odds and rescue crews race against the clock. The search for 65 trapped coal miners in northern Mexico is now in its third day. Mining experts from the U.S. are due to arrive today to help with the search.

The threat of more mudslides is slowing the desperate search effort in the Philippines. U.S. Marines and Philippine troops are focusing on an elementary school buried beneath the mud. But the search has shifted to a different spot from where they were digging earlier. Meanwhile, the Red Cross says it is slowly shifting to relief mode to care for the living.

A tense standoff in Las Vegas has ended. Police storming a room at Harrah's hotel and casino where a suspected gun man was holed up. He is now in custody. According to The Associated Press, authorities say the gunman killed another man and shot at police and paramedics. Guests were evacuated from several floors of the hotel during that standoff.

Good morning. Welcome back to CNN LIVE TODAY.

Checking some of the time around the world, just after 9:00 a.m. in Golden, Colorado; just after 11:00 a.m. in Washington, D.C.

From CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Daryn Kagan.

Up first this hour, the Supreme Court, with two Bush appointees now on the bench, jumps into the abortion debate. Just last hour, justices announced they will take up a major abortion case this fall.

The issue, can Congress restrict a certain type of late-term procedure? It's one that opponents call partial-birth abortion.

Let's go to New York now and our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, in the last hour you said this was a huge decision to see the court decide to take up this case.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, Daryn, because it is unusual that the Supreme Court revisits a decision it considered almost exactly the same way six years ago. In 2000, the Supreme Court evaluated a Nebraska law that banned this type of procedure, and by a 5-4 vote, with Justice O'Connor voting with the pro-choice majority, said that law was unconstitutional.

Now we have Samuel Alito replacing Sandra Day O'Connor, a very similar law in place as a federal law, signed by President Bush, and the court has agreed to take it up. The obvious implication is -- and we don't know if this is true -- is that this court is now prepared to shift and uphold the law, which is why President Bush's supporters on the evangelical religious right were so pleased with the appointment of Justice Alito.

KAGAN: We'll see how that pans out.

Also, news out of the Supreme Court coming on military tribunals.

TOOBIN: I don't think they decided that today, unless I'm mistaken. I don't think we got a decision on military tribunals.

KAGAN: Well, they ruled against the government that they will -- that they will already schedule -- there's already scheduled arguments. We're also waiting to hear about Jose Padilla and what they do with him.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry. The Padilla case stands as it was.

KAGAN: Right. Padilla, no. Right.

TOOBIN: There is such a shifting legal environment here, because you have Padilla held as an enemy combatant without any charges for years. That case is percolating up through the courts.

Then all of a sudden the government charges him with a crime and now says, well, forget about the whole enemy combatant deal, he's just an ordinary criminal defendant. Then, at the same time, you have Congress getting into the act, saying we don't want the Supreme Court getting involved with these cases at all.

The Supreme Court is basically leaving the status quo, in effect. They will decide the case on March 28 as -- they will hear the case on March 28, as they had planned all along.

KAGAN: All right. Jeffrey Toobin live.

Thank you, Jeff.

TOOBIN: All right, Daryn.

KAGAN: Good to see you. All right.

There is more uproar today over a deal to give an Arab company control of six major U.S. ports. Two Republican governors are threatening legal action to block the agreement with the United Arab Emirates. New York Governor George Pataki and Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich say they have concerns about security, and Ehrlich says he's upset that his state received no advanced notice.


GOV. ROBERT EHRLICH (R), MARYLAND: To find out when we did how we found out, given the state of where we are concerning security is very troubling.


KAGAN: To Washington now, where some lawmakers are calling on President Bush to block the port agreement. The administration insists the deal will not compromise security, but that has done little to quiet the critics. And the concern is coming from both sides of the aisle.

Our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, joins us with his own band behind him, it sounded like there for a second. He has more on ports and protecting the country. Also the politics of all of this.

Ed, hello.


In fact, you know, a delegation from Dubai Ports World, the company involved here, is in Washington trying to sell Congress on this deal. But interesting to note, they're on recess right now.

So most lawmakers are not even here in Washington. And the ones who are here or who are speaking out about it back in their home states, especially along the East Coast, Democrats and Republicans are lashing out at this deal.


HENRY (voice over): More political pressure on President Bush to block the port deal from the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security panel.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I would urge the president to freeze this contract, to hold this contract until a full and thorough and complete investigation can be conducted.

HENRY: Congressman Peter King, who's been briefed on the transaction, flatly rejected claims by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: And we build in conditions or requirements that -- for extra security that have to be met in order to make sure there that isn't a compromise to national security.

KING: I've been told what those safeguards are and, quite frankly, those safeguards would only help if we could have absolute faith in the company itself. And we can't because there was never a thorough investigation done of Dubai Ports.

HENRY: Democrats like Robert Menendez have pounced on Chertoff, already under fire for his response to Hurricane Katrina.

REP. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: You can't just simply tell us, trust us. We trusted the government in its response to Hurricane Katrina and the people of the Gulf region were left out there largely on their own.

HENRY: Menendez has proposed a new law prohibiting the sale of operations at U.S. ports to companies owned by foreign governments, noting 95 percent of the cargo reaching U.S. ports are not inspected.

MENENDEZ: We already feel that this is one of the major gaps in our security blanket. So to give the operational ability of the ports of the nation, the major ports of the nation to a foreign government, in this case, the government of Dubai, is, I think, not good policy.

HENRY: Republican Tom Ridge, Chertoff's predecessor, told CNN there needs to be more transparency about the deal, but said he has confidence in his former Bush colleagues.

TOM RIDGE, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I do think that at some point in time you have to say to yourself, would Secretary Rumsfeld and Snow and Chertoff and Rice compromise American security? I don't think so.


HENRY: And some maritime experts insist the whole notion that Dubai will be setting security standards at U.S. ports is a canard because, in fact, this company and the United Arab Emirates, of course, controlling the company, would still have to follow all U.S. maritime laws and they would be enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And at the end of the day, from all this noise we're hearing on Capitol Hill, do they have any power to do anything, or ultimately it's up to the White House?

HENRY: That's a good question. Frankly, it's mostly up to the president. But I think what lawmakers in both parties think is that the best they can do at this point is public pressure on the president, hoping that he will at least maybe consider an extra 30, 45 days to conduct another review, as Congressman Peter King, a Republican, is calling for.

And then short of that, other lawmakers like Senator Menendez, Senator Clinton, now today Senator Schumer, coming out with legislation, proposed new laws that if the president doesn't stop it, they'll try to make sure that there's a new law on the books that will stop it. But the clock is ticking. They have to do it by the beginning of March -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Ed Henry, live from our D.C. bureau.

Thank you.

HENRY: Thank you.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and talk about President Bush. He is on the road again today, driving to change what he calls America's addiction to oil. We're going to bring you portions of his remarks on renewable energy live this hour.

First, though, the administration scrambled to keep the president out of this potentially awkward spot.

Our Kathleen Koch is traveling with Mr. Bush this morning, and she joins us from what looks like the lovely Golden, Colorado.

Good morning.


And first, let's talk about the point of the president's trip. This is the last stop in a two-day, three-state swing promoting the president's energy policy, as you mentioned, his goal of breaking Americans' addiction to foreign oil.

It was yesterday he began the swing in Milwaukee, where he visited a company that makes better batteries for hybrid vehicles. That, then, was followed by a shortstop at a company that is in suburb Detroit where they produce solar panels and are having a great deal of success at that, planning to triple their production there by the end of the year 2007.

And today, the president right now is in the middle of a tour of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This lab is really the jewel in the crown when it comes to federal facilities doing cutting- edge research into solar and wind, geothermal, biomass energy.

But this jewel has grown quite tarnished lately as Congress has been repeatedly cutting this facility's budget, cut $28 million from the budget this year, $9 million last year. So just two weeks ago, some 32 employees at this very important facility had to be laid off.

Now, certainly it was very much out of sync with the president's goal that he announced in the State of the Union, breaking Americans' addiction to foreign oil and increasing by 22 percent research into renewable fuels. So the Energy Department, very conveniently over the weekend, managed to find $5 million from other programs.

They have devoted it now here to the lab. They have rehired the employees. The employees are pleased, but they say at the same time they're frustrated by all the back and forth.


TINA LARNEY, FMR. LABORATORY EMPLOYEE: I'm still questioning why the budget cuts even happened or why the layoffs had to happen in the first place. Like, how it can happen that two, three weeks later they can restore the money to the budget.


KOCH: Well, Energy Department spokesman Craig Stephens (ph) says that getting these jobs back was "important to the Energy secretary and important to the president." Though Stephens (ph), at the same time, does admit that the Bush visit here certainly "got the bureaucracy to work quicker" -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Kathleen Koch in Golden, Colorado.

Thank you.

President Bush's energy plan -- we want to take a detailed look at some of our energy sources here in the U.S. and just how we use them.


KAGAN (voice over): The United States spends more than $500 billion each year on energy. Fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil provide more than 85 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. Oil alone supplies more than 40 percent of America's total energy demands, including more than 99 percent of the fuel used in cars and trucks.

Coal supplies more than half the electricity consumed by Americans. The U.S. actually has the world's largest known coal reserves, enough to last more than 200 years.

While coal is the nation's major fuel for electric power, natural gas is catching up. In fact, more than 90 percent of the power plants to be built in the next 20 years will likely be fueled by natural gas. Whether for industrial uses, home heating or generating electricity, most of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. is produced in the United States as well.

All told, those fossil fuels are used to create nearly two-thirds of the nation's electricity. Nuclear power counts for about 20 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S., about as much electricity as is used in California, Texas and New York.

Currently, there are 104 commercial nuclear generating units. One hasn't come on line since 1996, but the administration emphasizes the need for nuclear expansion in maintaining a diverse energy supply.

The rest of the nation's electricity comes from other energy sources, including the sun and the win. Wind machines in the U.S. generate enough electricity to serve 1.6 million households. The amount of electricity generated from wind has tripled since 1998.


KAGAN: And now to California, where the state has rescheduled the execution of Michael Morales for tonight. It was halted early this morning when two doctors walked out on executioners.

KXTV reporter Cornell Barnard reports from San Quentin.


CORNELL BERNARD, REPORTER, KXTV: Michael Morales had been scheduled to die here at San Quentin Prison at 12:01 this morning. That didn't happen. His execution now rescheduled for 7:30 tonight after two anesthesiologists backed out of the execution process.

Now, a court order had required the doctors be present during the lethal injection process, but they had ethical concerns if they had to intervene, if Morales appeared to feel pain. And they called that unacceptable.

Instead, the prison says it will use a second option given by the courts, a lethal five-gram dose of sodium pentathol. No anesthesiologist will be present.

The family of murder victim Terri Winshell (ph), who Morales murdered in 1981, said to be upset about this delay. Morales said to be relieved about the last-minute reprieve.

At San Quentin Prison, Cornell Barnard, CNN.


KAGAN: It is the book that is sure to spark a conversation whenever it's mentioned, "The Da Vinci Code." Now, as momentum builds for the film version of the best-seller, some religion experts want to help you separate fact from fiction, and do that online.

That's coming up.

Plus, she went from competing on ice to competing in roles for Hollywood. The focus in Torino turning to women's figure skating. I'll talk with gold medal winner Tara Lipinski.



KAGAN: A number of developing stories we're watching right now at CNN. First, we're hearing from the Department of Justice that they will hold a news conference today in a couple hours, 1:30 p.m. Eastern, about this arrest of three men being charged in Ohio with alleged support of terrorism. Two of the men already in Ohio, the other man in an unnamed country.

It's believed they were plotting some attacks overseas, but sources at this point not saying exactly what they believe these men have been plotting. We should learn more when this news conference take place in a couple of hours. You'll see that live here on CNN.

Also, out of Golden, Colorado, these pictures just in. This is President Bush. He is in Golden, Colorado, at the National Renewable Energy Lab. And he is talking about alternative forms of energy.

President Bush lately talking a lot about breaking what he says is America's dependence on oil. The president also expected to speak in a little bit. We will be listening in to those comments as well.

Onward, it has been a "New York Times" best-seller for more than a thousand days. In fact, "The Da Vinci Code" is number two still this week. So buckle up. Here comes the movie on May 19.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in grave danger.


KAGAN: "The Da Vinci Code" is fiction. It's a novel, of course, but it does turn Christianity upside down.

So to head off the critics, filmmakers are giving them a pulpit. They're calling it The Da Vinci Challenge. The Web site features essays by top scholars. One of those is our John Allen. He is a CNN Vatican analyst.

And I believe they're calling it The Da Vinci dialogue.

Anyhow, it's the national -- he's with the "National Catholic Reporter." John joining me from Duluth, Minnesota, this morning.

John, good morning

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Hey, Daryn, how are you?

KAGAN: I'm doing good. You see this movie and the book as an opportunity for the church and Christianity, not as a threat.

How so?

ALLEN: Well, look, I mean, you know, while it's true that "The Da Vinci Code" is riddled with a lot of historical inaccuracies and so forth, I mean, the bottom line is that it has tens of millions of people around the world talking religion, talking about who is Jesus Christ, you know, what are the origins of the Christian Church and so on? And, you know, no P.R. budget on the part of institutional Christianity could ever have paid for all of that.

I mean, you know, it has got the attention of the world. So I think what it does is it gives Christians an opportunity to, you know, respond to that curiosity by trying to set the record straight. And so I think rather than kind of ringing our hands and bemoaning the way that, you know, liberal Hollywood once again has skewered us and so on, I think the more constructive thing to do is to try to step up to the plate and communicate.

KAGAN: Well, one of the groups that gets skewered the most is Opus Dei. And I know that you have written a book about Opus Dei. Do you see it as an opportunity to shine a light on this organization as well?

ALLEN: Well, I mean, look, you know, it's not my job to speak for Opus Dei. But I do think that the more creative minds within Opus Dei would see it that way.

I mean, you know -- I mean, Opus Dei is this relatively modest and fairly insignificant, actually, group within the Catholic Church of about 85,000 people worldwide with pretty limited means, and so on. And, you know, traditionally, it has been kind of the bogeyman of the Catholic imagination.

I mean, there's this kind of mythology around it. But what the -- what "The Da Vinci Code" does, actually, in an ironic way is give Opus Dei the opportunity to present itself as a kind of, you know, misunderstood victim, in a sense, and tell -- again, to tell its own story on a massive public scale in a way that certainly...

KAGAN: John, stay with me one second. I'm going to have to do that rude news anchor thing and interrupt you. Hold on a second.

President Bush right now is speaking in Golden, Colorado. We're going to listen to the president for a moment and then we'll get back to John Allen.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... and the economic security implications of being hooked on oil, particularly since the demand for oil is rising faster than the supply of oil. And any time that happens, it creates the conditions for what could be price disruption, and price spikes at home are like hidden taxes on the working people of our country.

And so we're here to discuss ways to achieve this really important national goal. And there's no better place to come than NREL. And I want to thank you all for hosting me. I appreciate...


I really appreciate the scientists and dreamers and, more importantly, doers who work here to help us achieve this important goal. I recognize that there has been some interesting -- let me say mixed signals when it comes to funding. The issue, of course, is whether or not good intentions are met with actual dollars spent.

Part of the issue we face, unfortunately, is that there are sometimes decisions made, but as a result of the appropriations process, the money may not end up where it was supposed to have gone. I was talking to -- talking to Dan about our mutual desire to clear up any discrepancies in funding. And I think we've cleaned up those discrepancies.

My message to those who work here is, we want you to know how important your work is, we appreciate what you're doing, and we expect to you keep doing it. And we want to help you keep doing it.


I want to thank Dan. He's going to be saying some stuff here in a minute. So we're not going to -- I'm just going to thank him.

I want to thank your staff for hosting us. It's a pain to host the president. But anyway, you've done a fine job.

And I want to thank the governor of the state of Colorado, Bill Owens, for joining us.


The United States Senator Ken Salazar.

Thanks for coming, Ken. I appreciate it.

KAGAN: Just listening a little bit there to President Bush. He's in Golden, Colorado, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

This is the place where folks try to do some of the things the president has been pushing in recent weeks, and that is finding alternative ways to fuel the nation besides what the president calls the American addiction to oil.

More on that in a bit.

We want to welcome John Allen back as we were talking about the upcoming "Da Vinci Code" movie and this Da Vinci Challenge, this Web site that's been put up.

Now, the studio, instead of running from controversy and different opinions, is kind of welcoming it and setting up this Web site where people can go and put opinions about the book, about the movie. And as I understand it, they've put up the site but they're not going to edit it.

And you plan on putting something up there as well.

ALLEN: Yes. Basically, what Sony did is they hired a P.R. firm in L.A. that actually specializes in the Christian market. And what that P.R. firm has done is solicit essays from various prominent Christian writers about various dimensions of "The Da Vinci Code."

As you mentioned a moment ago, I've written a book on Opus Dei. Opus Dei, which is this Catholic organization that comes in for a bit of a drubbing in the book. I've been asked to contribute the essay on Opus Dei, and I've been told by these people that the space that they give me is entirely my own. There's not going to be any editing or content control on Sony's end.

You know, basically, I think what's going on here, Daryn, is that, you know, with the cartoon controversy of recent days and Muslim reaction around the world, we've been reminded that when people feel their religion is being insulted, it can be quite combustible. And I think this is Sony's attempt to get ahead of the criticism and try to send a signal to concerned Christians that they're interested in their sensibilities.

KAGAN: And do you think it will work?

ALLEN: Probably not. You know, I mean, I think it will be a useful exercise for people who are interested. But I think basically speaking, the same people who were exercised about the book are also likely to be exercised about the movie. And I'm not sure that, you know, merely opening up a space for discussion among academics and so on is going to do much about that.

But again, I say, you know, as a Christian myself, I mean, I share concerns people have about the misrepresentations of Christ and the Christian story in the book. But it seems to me, rather than sort of, you know, getting angry and point fingers, the much more constructive thing to do is to step into the marketplace of ideas and try to tell the story better than Dan Drown did.

KAGAN: Well, and we appreciate your ideas as well. And when the movie comes out, we'd like to have you back and talk about things as they're unfolding.

ALLEN: You bet, Daryn.

KAGAN: John Allen, always fascinating to talk with you. John, thank you.

We haven't had a chance in this hour to check on weather. So let's fix that and check in with Jacqui Jeras -- Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Daryn. A great day to read a book. That's for sure.


KAGAN: Coming up, we're going to check in on the "New You" participants. A progress report on the twins. How far have they come, and what are they doing that could work for you?

And would you know if you were having a stroke? An ounce of prevention in our "Daily Dose" of medical news.



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